In the Pali Nikayas and in the Mahayana canon there is a very major division generally not discussed in Buddhist circles. Such a division can only be described as a spiritual division in which the creature man is either transcended once and for all or continues in samsara which is never other than mundane and suffering.
The spiritual division consists of a path of ordinary individuals or prithagjana (P., puthujjana) and a higher path for aryans (P., ariyans) or the aryan individual. The path of the prithagjana is a path of merit-gaining without complete transcendence unlike the path which is aryan. This implies both merit and demerit; rebirth as a god (deva) for good merit for a long period of time or a far lower rebirth in the hells for bad merit. In other words, one is still caught up in Mara's conditioned world with no means of escape. Try as he might, the Buddha could not make his super-knowledge known to the prithagjana because of their predisposition towards the non-aryan (an-aryan); only the aryans could resonate with his teachings and escape.
The path of the aryan individual is only achieved by spiritual gnosis such as the realization of ultimate reality. We could also say that the aryan individual is one who is at the door of the undying. More importantly, it is only the aryan who is capable of taking the ārya ashṭāṅga mārga (the aryan eightfold path) which is transcendent (lokuttara); who has first had supermundane right view unlike the view of a prithagjana (in the Mahācattārīsaka Sutta the Buddha speaks of two kinds of right view: one directed at acquiring merit (mundane); the other supermundane).
Such a division I hasten to add plays no favorites with the monastic body, either. The same applies. There are prithagjana and aryan monks and nuns. There is no spiritual or aryan advantage in being a monk or a nun.
It is interesting to note that the later division of Hinayana and Mahayana seems to be unclear as what the division is exactly over and how it came about. I find it hard to believe that one just takes the vows of a Bodhisattva and that's it. They are automatically superior to an arya-sravaka! I tend to think that the spiritual division is always present between those of a prithagjana persuasion and those who have had an authentic glimpse into their true nature or the same kensho. The prithagjana lives in a species-specific mundane world who cannot manage to see through the human illusion whereas the aryan has seen through it; whose reached the other shore, so to speak.